How I quit tobacco and gained freedom

I started smoking when I was 17 years old. Nearly two decades later,
at 36, my smoking addiction had taken ownership of my life, and I
hated it.

Smoking had negatively affected my finances, my ability to be
physically active and even my sense of smell. But what I hated most
was my inability to feel peace or enjoy any kind of social event or meeting.  

Smoking was the first thing I did each morning and the last thing I
did before going to sleep. I had to smoke before going anywhere or
doing anything, and as soon as I was unable to smoke at my leisure, I
looked for a way out. I became anxious, irritable and stressed if I
knew I was going to be anywhere for longer than an hour without a
cigarette. Smoking had taken hold of my life.

My decision to quit smoking

I’d wanted to quit smoking for many years, but I had a lot of
fear and anxiety about even trying. I didn’t think I would ever be
able to start my day without having a couple of cigarettes, but after
each morning smoke, I told myself I had to quit.

When I heard a radio ad about research studies at MD Anderson for smokers trying to quit, I made
the call. Soon after, I had an appointment with a research coordinator
from MD Anderson’s Tobacco Treatment Program, and I was excited. I
still didn’t believe I would really be able to quit, but I was happy
that I had taken the first steps by choosing to try.

Participating in a smoking cessation study

The study I participated in was simple to follow and gave me a lot
of support. I was able to enroll over the phone and was accepted after
an in person eligibility meeting. The goal of the study was to find
out if the nicotine replacement medication, Varenicline (Chantix), or
the nicotine patch can help people with different types of emotion and
attention levels to quit smoking.

I was given both the medication and patch, but one was active and
the other was a placebo. I worked with a counselor throughout the
process. My study had a total of 10 simple appointments — 6 in person
and 4 over the phone. During my appointments, I completed surveys, had
my vitals assessed and spoke with my counselor.

My counselor did not ask me to quit smoking right away, which, to be
honest, I kind of liked. I knew I had committed to a process that
would require me to try quitting, but I didn’t have to face that fear immediately. 

How I quit smoking

On the eighth day of the study, my counselor and I discussed
choosing a “quit” day. I decided to quit on July 23, 2016, which
happened to be my grandmother’s 95th birthday party. I had
a little over a week to mentally prepare. Despite having a support
call scheduled with my counselor the day before, I was still nervous. 

When July 23 came, I only smoked one cigarette, and I did the same
the next two days. On July 26, I smoked two cigarettes, but I went to
bed with confidence and resolve. After smoking 20 cigarettes a day for
19 years, I’d successfully had only five in four days.

Regaining my freedom

I haven’t smoked a cigarette since then, and I am ecstatic about my
new normal. I have a new sense of confidence and accomplishment in
place of the anxiety and irritability, and I have replaced my bad
habit with good ones. I have taken up regular exercise and replaced my
smoky scents with minty fresh sugar-free gum and mints.

I have my freedom back, along with the simple joy of being present
in whatever moment I may find myself in. For anyone who wants to quit
but has fear or self-doubt, I encourage you just to make the simple
choice to try. Hopefully, through that choice, you will also obtain
the results you desire.

MD Anderson’s 

Tobacco Treatment Program
 offers tobacco cessation services, including in-person behavioral
counseling and medication treatments, at no cost to MD Anderson patients, employees and their
families. Several clinical trials offering similar services for
smoking cessation are also open to the public. For more information,
please call 713-792-2265.